Laura and her creations
By Laura Kennedy
My name is Laura and in a couple of weeks I will celebrate my 35th birthday. I am married to the most utterly incredible man I have ever encountered. Together we have two cats and a dog, all of whom were rescued (of course) and we adore unconditionally. I am an animal lover, passionate music aficionado, omnivore-tolerant vegan, practicing visual artist. And I have brain cancer.
After growing up on the Central Coast of NSW I moved to Sydney in my early twenties. I did well in school but I was always a bit restless. My creative ambitions always seemed a bit bigger than my skill set. I started several degrees, finished a bunch of TAFE courses, and have had about 30 jobs in retail and hospitality.
I met Jason, my now husband, when we both worked in a bookstore in Parramatta (remember Borders books/café/music?) Anyway, it was a very Jane Austen-esque tale of misplaced loathing dissolving into utter devotion and we married three weeks after we started dating.
Everything was finally coming together in my life, and then it all almost fell apart.
After returning from a trip to Melbourne to visit my sister, I went to bed and Jason heard a noise he assumed was the cats brawling. He walked into our bedroom and found me convulsing mid-seizure. In that moment he knew everything had shifted and he still gets emotional talking about it.
It turns out my seizure was caused by a brain tumour. First thought to be benign, it was eventually ruled to be an astrocytoma that sits between two and three on the grading scale. It was located in my front left temporal lobe and surgically removed in its entirety.
Apparently it was shaped like an elongated golf ball and had an egg-shell-like containment. I also contracted two infections during the initial surgery (including golden staph) and had a second surgery to clean out the site. Since then I have happily been able to keep my skull (ie not spend 12 months in a helmet) and had 8 weeks of intravenous antibiotics overlapping 6.5 weeks of simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation therapy. I am currently in a 4 week treatment break before resuming chemotherapy cycles for the next 12 months.
So how have I felt through all of this? So very, very incredibly lucky!
I feel lucky that I am 35 years old, not three years old. Lucky that my tumour was clearly operable and that I came through both surgeries without changes to my personality or bodily functions. Lucky that I live in a country with such an amazing medical system that I was treated so well with so little out-of-pocket expenses. Lucky that I had a team of oncologists fighting to get me into a closing clinical trial and that I was randomly allocated the most aggressive arm with the most free chemotherapy. But mostly, I feel so lucky to be loved so deeply by my husband, family and friends.
But what I also know is that my tumour will very likely return and keep returning. It’s also now likely that I won’t grow old with my husband or that we will ever have children. These things I can make peace with.
But what I can’t reconcile and what I will fight with every inch of life left in me, is brain cancer lacking the funding and recognition it so greatly needs.
It’s a horrendous beast that needs slaying yesterday.
That's why this year I'll be part of Walk4BrainCancer Tasmania - one of many walks around the country with the aim of raising vital funds and awareness for brain cancer. I'll have a stall at this year's walk, where I'll be selling hand-crafted jewelry, with all profits going to Cure Brain Cancer Foundation. See you there!
Join Walk4BrainCancer 2017